[Continued from Part 1]
What does creative excellence take?
In his article How to Win American Idol, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman refers to research by Rena Subotnik and Linda Jarvin, who “interviewed over 80 top students at different stages of their musical careers and identified the traits important to succeed at every stage on the way to the top.
“The three abilities that were absolutely necessary as a baseline were intrinsic motivation, charisma, and musicality.”
But for musicians at an “elite” level of talent, “technical proficiency mattered less and the following factors rose to prominence: self-promotion skills, having a good agent, capitalizing on strengths, overcoming self-doubt, exuding self-confidence, good social skills, persevering through criticisms and defeats, and taking risks.”
How does a brutal teaching style impact those factors?
“I push people beyond what’s expected of them. I believe that is an absolute necessity.”
How much does forceful mentoring help students achieve excellence, and when does it become abusive?
Those issues are part of the movie Whiplash, apparently named after the jazz standard by Hank Levy.
The quote above is by acclaimed teacher Terence Fletcher (JK Simmons) at a music school reputed to be “one of the best in the country,” explaining his teaching approach to one of his star pupils, Andrew (Miles Teller), who idolizes jazz drummer Buddy Rich, and has aspirations to also be “one of the greats.”
“Imagination…discovers the real.”
Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace, was a daughter of poet Lord Byron, and worked with polymath Charles Babbage, who called her The Enchantress of Numbers.
The computer language ADA was named after her, in recognition of her work that helped originate software and computers.
Ada Lovelace talked about her passions for creative imagination and math:
“Imagination is the Discovering Faculty, pre-eminently … It is that which feels & discovers what is, the REAL which we see not, which exists not for our senses.
Author, professor and CEO Ocean Robbins and his father John are examples of transformational writers. Ocean recalls:
“I was ten-years-old when my dad first began to write Diet for a New America. It was the first book to expose the truth about factory farms, and the link between food and our planet, to a wide audience. In the five years after the book’s publication in 1987, beef consumption in the United States dropped by 25%, and my dad received more than 50,000 letters from readers, thanking him for changing their lives.
“As we’ve seen in our family, sometimes writing can change the world.”
“I don’t think necessity is the mother of invention. Invention, in my opinion, arises directly from idleness, possibly also from laziness – to save oneself trouble.”
Agatha Christie [via brainyquote.com]
We may feel pressured to stay busy and keep producing, but is there some value for developing creativity in being, if not lazy, at least idle for a time?
The work of London-based fashion photographer Natalie Dybisz, who works under the name Miss Aniela, is much more complex and intriguing.
Writer Sarah Bradley describes some of how Miss Aniela works:
“Blurring the lines between art, photography, and fashion, Miss Aniela’s collection of Surreal Fashion takes us to a mysterious place where the most elaborate and fantastical dreams come to life.”
How does our self concept, our identity, affect creative expression?
How do we find creative passions and how does pursuing them demand changes in our life?
One example of an artist who has addressed these questions is Natalie Fobes.
A bio on her site summarizes some of her personal journey and work:
“Not many photographers have faced winds of 90 knots and seas of 40 feet while on a fishing boat in the middle of the Bering Sea.
“Few can describe the bitter cold of a Siberian winter while camped out with Chukchi reindeer herders. Or say that their first client was National Geographic Magazine.
What seems to be a setback, error or limitation, may often be valuable for encouraging more creative thinking and innovation.
Valerie Young writes about two “mistakes” that resulted in very successful products:
“Did you know, for example, that Post-It-Notes were the result of what 3M Company researchers at first thought to be a bad batch of glue?
What leads, urges, even compels so many of us to be creatively expressive?
Given that everyone is creative to some degree, why do many people choose careers in the arts, or work that actively engages their creativity?
Most of us will never be actors or other filmmakers – especially ones that are seen and acknowledged publicly – but many of those creators talk about what calls them to engage in creative work, despite the challenges.
One example: Lupita Nyong’o, who won an Academy Award for best supporting actress on March 2, 2014 for her role in “12 Years a Slave.”
In her moving acceptance speech, she noted one source of inspiration for her portrayal of a slave: “It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. And so I want to salute the spirit of Patsey for her guidance.”
She also thanked director Steve McQueen: “You charge everything you fashion with a breath of your own spirit. Thank you so much for putting me in this position, it’s been the joy of my life.”
Wilson thinks that with our “feel good” culture and the “widespread use of happy drugs, everybody’s trying to be cheerful and there are no decent dollops of melancholy and sadness. When this happens, art becomes bland, unchallenging and redundant.”
Genn notes, “Dr. Thomas Svolos of the department of Psychiatry at Creighton University School of Medicine thinks Wilson is right. ‘When you’re melancholy, you tend to step back and examine your life,’ he says. ‘That kind of questioning is essential for creativity.’